Sportsnaut exclusive: Interview with HOFer LaDainian Tomlinson

By Vincent Frank
Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons

Sportsnaut editor Vincent Frank just got an opportunity to sit down with Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

The conversation included everything from his experience at the Sun Bowl during the running back’s career at TCU to the work he’s doing behind the scenes to help children as well as LT’s prediction for the Super Bowl this coming February.

We started the conversation out by talking about Mission Tiger, an initiative that provides children in the El Paso area with sports equipment to help them remain active and build teamwork.

What is Mission Tiger and why is it so important to you?

Mission Tiger came together with DICK’S Sporting Goods to announce that every public middle school in El Paso (home of the Sun Bowl) is going to receive a sports matter grant. And that’s really to give kids better access to sports. It’s actually a donation of $500,000, which will help every middle school kid here in El Paso. That’s about 27,000.

As an alum of the Sun Bowl, it’s really exciting to be back here in El Paso and announce this initiative. That’s why it’s important to me. Youth sports really teaches these kids about teamwork and leadership skills. All of the things these kids will carry for the rest of their lives.

Was there something in your childhood that made you want to join this initiative?

It’s just a matter of being a part of youth sports from the time I was eight years old. And the impact it had on me. Really, just the ability to interact with peers and kids my age. Learning how to be on the team. And honestly, learning how to fail. You’re not going to win every time.

Bring sportsmanship. All of the things we want to teach our kids. I want to pass it on, because of what I learned as a youth. At the end of the day, we have to teach our kids that there’s a lesson in everything. You can’t win every time. I have a nine-year-old son, so we’re learning that lesson right now.

What was your favorite part about the Sun Bowl? Was it the pageantry before the game? The game itself?

Actually, it was playing USC. A national powerhouse for many years. You know, they were known around the country and TCU was just this small private school that no one knew about. It was our opportunity to send a message and announce, “hey, we can play football, too. It’s not just about the University of Texas in the state of Texas.”

The group of guys we had. We were disciplined. I think at the end of the day, when I look back at it, so many great memories. But none other than being able to beat a national powerhouse like USC.

And it put TCU on a map. That had to be big to you.

As an alum and a trustee member, we’re awfully proud of the University.

Do you think Philip Rivers will be back with the Chargers next season?

I wish I can tell you. I think that’s going to depend on Philip Rivers. I certainly believe that he can continue to play. And I believe that the Chargers will try to bring him back. But that decision will be made by Rivers.

Do you think the decision to move to Los Angeles will play a role?

Any time you’re in the market for over 55 years, it is certainly hard to leave that market. If you think about someone like Philip who has played most of his career in San Diego, sure it couldn’t have been easy to leave and go to L.A.

But we’ve been in Los Angeles for a number of years. I think we’re finishing up our third year in L.A. And the new stadium is going to open next year. Looking for enthusiasm, so that’s pretty cool.

Super Bowl prediction?

The Saints and Ravens. I just think I’d never bet against Drew Brees (former teammate). He’s a personal friend, and sometimes I wonder if the guy is human.

Final thoughts

It was pretty awesome sitting down with LT and listening to what he’s doing behind the scenes in El Paso. It was also intriguing to get his opinion on the topics of the day around the NFL.

Check out Mission Tiger as Frosted Flakes, Tony the Tiger, DICK’S Sporting Good, LT and the Sun Bowl work together to kelp give local kids with the ability to succeed through sports and teamwork.

The 2019 Sun Bowl between Florida State and Arizona State will kick off from El Paso at 2:00 PM ET on New Year’s Day.